I have previously posted about recantations because of Virginia’s archaic 21-Day Rule law, that a witness /accuser has 21 days from sentencing of the defendant to recant their false claim, any longer than 3 weeks and the State ignores the recant, doesn't investigate and the wrongful conviction stands.
The below OpEd piece and May 2013 Study on the high rate of recantations being valid, should get the Virginia lawmakers to sit up and take notice on my repeated plea to repeal the 21 Day Rule.
Rob Warden provides a must-read opinion on recantations, November 8, 2013
If you have ever wondered why courts often believe original witness testimony over a recantation and thereby deny a new trial, read Rob Warden’s insightful opinion piece on recantations published in the Chicago Sun-Times (here).
Not only does Warden explain why
courts have often sided with original testimony, but he also provides ample
evidence that this common confidence in an original statement has been upended
by numerous cases in which the recantation proved to be the truth. Illinois
Warden, Executive Director, of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law, provides the foundation for erroneous confidence in original testimony, at least in
An Illinois Supreme Court decision eighty-two years ago included this
statement: “Recanting testimony is regarded as very unreliable, and a court
will usually deny a new trial based on that ground where it is not satisfied
that such testimony is true.” Illinois
Warden points out that the exoneration of Gary Dotson—often referenced as the first DNA-proven exoneration—could have been expedited by four years if
believed the recantation of Dotson’s accuser. Illinois
Citing data from the National Registry of Exonerations, he notes, “Since the Dotson case, recantations in 26 other Illinois cases similarly have proved true — often more belatedly than in the Dotson case…The longest delay occurred in the Ford Heights Four case, in which authorities ignored the key accuser’s recantation for 18 years — from June 1978 until DNA proved it truthful in June 1996.”
Warden writes that the Illinois Supreme Court now has two cases before it that provide opportunity to correct now-debunked confidence in original testimony over recantation, but even more important, to remind judges that whether the recantation is the truth or not, is not even the question before them. (Again, read Warden’s opinion piece.)
The National Registry of Exonerations has issued preliminary findings on an ongoing study of recantations (here) that should dispel the myth of the sanctity of original testimony everywhere.
This report indicates that “25% of exonerations include recantations by prosecution witnesses or victims; 82% of these recantations occur in murder and child sex abuse cases. In murder cases, the recanters are usually ‘eyewitnesses’ who were pressured by law enforcement to give false testimony. In child sex abuse cases, most are ‘victims’ who were pressured by family members or child welfare investigators to accuse the defendants of crimes that never happened.”